Esoteric K-01/K-03 Owners

Spoke today with the local Esoteric rep to get information on plans to upgrade existing K-01/K-03 users to the "X" model which is only sold overseas at this time. Here is the scoop. (Dates/$$ are only close estimates)

- Upgrades will be available in October 2014
- The upgrade will include the USB input mechanism to support 2.8 MHz DSD (Native Playback) and 384 MHz (PCM).
- There are several other upgrades to the K-01x/K-03x that are not included. (i.e. Upgrades to the DAC, Transport, etc that are direct descendants of the
Grandioso Model).
- Approx. cost is $1,000 (Not including 2-way shipping)
- The Upgrades will be provided in California

Info. on K-03x:

Beats having to buy a new DSD Dac in the meantime if patient.

Information on its even heftier K-01X single box
brother is at:

Furthermore, Esoteric has a free HR Audio Player that can be downloaded at:
I have not heard about this in the USA. Can the DAC be upgraded in the K-03. I like my CD collection and have no plans for streaming or downloading music.
Many thanks as usual, Guido.

I just downloaded the HRA player to my K-01 and the installation was a breeze. Upon installation, the upsampling option defaults to ORG (no upsampling) while the digital filter option defaults to OFF.

The improvement in sonics over my previous coax connection via the iFi iLink usb-spdif converter is significant in every parameter.
When I compared the default ORG and OFF to the other options, there was some degradation in SQ. So I went back to the default as Esoteric meant it to be for optimal SQ.

If one has a very high-end usb-spdif converter compared to my pedestrian iLink, your mileage would of course vary between the coax and usb connections. I have to qualify here that my usb connection from the pc is via the iFi iPower and double-headed Gemini cable which separates the usb power from the audio signal. I did compare with and without the iPower again after installation of the HRA Player and came away much happier with the iPower in the chain.

All K-01/03 owners who are into computer audio owe it to themselves to try out this free download.

Happy listening!
Hi Phillyb,
I hope to persuade you to try out HRA with your K-03 in which you have invested a substantial sum. I am not a dealer but just another hobbyist who has simply discovered and experienced the joys of HRA.
As the cost of the K-03 comes with the usb input and hirez DAC, you would be missing out on a lot of its other capabilities, esp with HRA.
This little experiment will come at very little additional cost. First, get an audiophile grade usb cable-the Audioquest Pearl usb cable is a rather affordable point to start with. Then download the free HRA player, install it and then, go to the HD Tracks website to download their free samples of hirez files.
I am quite confident you will like what you hear compared to CD.
"I have not heard about this in the USA. Can the DAC be upgraded in the K-03. I like my CD collection and have no plans for streaming or downloading music".

The Esoteric Rep indicated they do not plan to upgrade the DAC or provide any additional upgrades offered via the K-01x/K-03x other than the USB input capability extended.

Follow this link (Scroll to bottom of page) and it specifies their intentions at this point. Perhaps they will offer additional K-01/K-03 beyond the USB interface when the time comes, however; the Rep said do not count on it.

Unfortunately, as far as the Esoteric HR Audio Player goes, it is not compatible with my version 2010 Mac Mini (10.6.8) unless I upgrade my OS to Maverick. Fortunately, I am pleased with Amarra 3.0.2 and Audirvana +, though I would certainly be interested in hearing and comparing SQ if I could.
Hi John, is the HR Audio Player able to play redbook material, or only High Resolution files?

Yes, it supports RedBook CD playback as mentioned below:

Supported file formats:
Simple screen design reduces CPU load and contributes to higher sound quality.
By using a simple screen design, the CPU load is reduced, and this contributes to higher sound quality. For listeners that desire even better audio quality, the RAM buffer playback loads the data temporarily into the computer's memory before playback to enable playback with even higher audio quality.
Other features
> Playlists can be created, saved and loaded
> Repeat playback function for playlists and single tracks
> Shuffle playback function for playlists
> DSF (.dsf ) DSDIFF (.dff ) PCM (.wav) FLAC (.flac) MP3 (.mp3) 2.8/5.6 MHz
2.8/5.6 MHz
> 44.1 kHz – 384 kHz,16 bit – 32 bit 44.1 kHz – 384 kHz,16 bit – 32 bit 32 kbps – 320 kbps

That is fascinating Mark... I wonder if there will be always a sonic advantage in playing redbooks from the K-01X spinner, or there will exist some setup from a PC/Mac such that playback of redbook files from computer will be superior.

+1 Mark's comments above. Yes, it would be interesting to compare redbook files via the HRA player to CD's spinning in the transport. I shall evaluate this and revert.

The HRA player does not do native dsd for the K-01/03. While I did not download dsd files in the past, I can do so now to evaluate the DoP protocol. Would be interesting to compare dsd over pcm to hirez pcm for some music albums.
Guido and all,
I have compared the redbook version of the same album to the CD spinning in the transport. I am delighted to say that it is no contest with sound from the transport way ahead by quite a mile. I am happy because the substantial investment in the VRDS Neo transport for redbook material remains sound and has not been rendered obsolete by the HRA player. :)
The transport (VMK-3.5-20S) and the clock (0.5 ppm vcxo part) appear to be the same between k-01 and the new x model. so do the power supply and the 8 dac/per channel configuration. which is a relief for me as a k-01 owner not willing to immediately upgrade.

the difference is the new akm dac chip, usb receiver and possibly the digital pre-amp section.

looking forward to hearing impressions but reminds me of the x-01 to d2 upgrade which i also skipped and was later awarded with the k series upgrade which was revolutionary
Jon... Fascinating!

What could account for the K-01 transport advantage? ...

* Inherent jitter of the hard drive? ... Perhaps try a new Samsung 850 Pro SSD?
* Jitter introduced by the connection to K-01?
* Stray noise originating in the computer?
* other?

I would have to agree with Guido on the possible challenges above. No matter what tweaks I made, I always preferred the timbre, grain free sound, depth of soundstage, etc. playing RB CD's in the K-03 Transport vs music files played using the K-03 USB input.

The next move was to replace the HD in my 2010 Mac Mini with an Agility 3 SSD. In addition, I added the Bel Canto Reflink to the mix via BNC/SPDIF (Transparent Reference Digital Cable) to K-03 Coaxial input.

I kept the Audioquest Carbon USB Cable to direct USB Input to perform an A/B comparison and could now evaluate all three options. The differences for me now between spinning disks and listening to the like Redbook CD file(s) are indiscernible, I can hear no difference. Seems the SSD and USB Converter reduced the noise inherent in computers while reducing jitter.

Looks like Mark has answered most of your questions. For me, I will continue to play redbook CD's in the transport and listen only to hi-rez via the HRA player.
Comparing hi-rez via HRA to redbook CD's in the transport, hi-rez is at a whole new level altogether.
Mark, one day you may decide to upgrade your Mac OS to Maverick and be able to take advantage of the HRA player.
Yeah....have given that some thought. Just concerned after hearing several people that upgraded their OS to Maverick, which resulted in problems with Amarra and A+ integration.

If your willing, you can download a free trial version of each to compare to the Esoteric HRA Player. If you have the time, I would love to hear your comparative opinion. Maybe that will push me over the edge to upgrade my OS.

Thank you Mark, while my nostalgic inclinations made me hope invane that K-03 remained superior as an all-in-one over its partial use with a computer front end, your findings do not surprise me. I wonder if applying the new blazingly fast and superliable Samsung 850 Pro SSd would give your MacMini an edge over the K-03 transport. See this detailed review of the device:

I conjecture that the Samsung 850 Pros series blazing speed might reduce jitter even further.

Perhaps Guido,
The specs of the 850 vs Agility 3 SSD are similar, yet there are advantages to the 850 Pro for sure.

The thing is, the 2010 Mac Mini has the drive buried in the back of the unit. They recommend that only expert technicians attempt to switch out drives....I am not that guy. Nevertheless, following an instructional you tube video I found, I gave it a go. Almost every component in the MM had to be removed. I needed my pair of surgical loupes to see half the screws I removed and of the 32, most had varying ISO they each had to be labeled to get the right ones back in the right place. 4-5 hours later I was holding my breath when I booted up the MM....all was fine.

Exhausting enough of a task, I won't be trying to tackle that again. When I eventually upgrade my Mac Mini this may be a viable option, as Apple received complaints about the aforementioned design and I understand the process of swapping drives is much easier based on its location in the enclosure.

I am sure the extent some of go to in the pursuit of the best SQ, seems ridiculous to many. Lol

Thanks for sharing.

Agh... Did not realize that replacing a drive in MacMini was this exciting... I appreciate your lack of enthusiasm with the idea of repeating the thrillsome experience G.
I am afraid I use Windows 8.1 for hi-rez audio and will not be able to compare what you hope for. Also, I would need Amarra and A+ for the experiment.
I appreciate your resolve in getting past the Mac Mini's "screw vaults", so to speak. Well, I am a mite meeker when it comes to this sort of thing although I would do it on an old discarded piece just to exercise my hands and fingers. Looks like coincidentally, you may be a microsurgeon too, with your surgical loupes, precision and attention to detail with regard to the screw types.
Dear all,

I called up my local Marantz dealer earlier today to find out about the new network player NA8005. Lo and behold, they have it in the store on passive display. So I trundled down to the store and brought it home. At $1199 retail, it was worth a calculated risk since the first network player, the NA11S was well received by JA. The NA8005 piqued my interest for 2 primary reasons - one, it could play dsd and hirez pcm files from a USB memory stick, and two, it has a coax digital output.

Once unpacked, set-up was a breeze for my primary objective of playing hirez files from a USB flash drive. So, no more computer and usb cables. It was simply connecting the 8005 to the K-01 coax input.

Fresh out of the box(I don't know if a network player would benefit from break-in), the sound emanating from the usb memory stick jacked into the front panel input, was in a word, glorious. If I was previously happy with hi-rez via the Esoteric's HRA player, I must say I am completely floored by what I heard in the first few minutes. It was incredible! I had this sudden epiphany of what hi-rez is all about. So, this is indeed how hi-rez should really sound. It is truly that jaw-dropping. All I can say is that with usb flash memory as source, coupled to the K-01's DAC section, there is detail and detail, and yet, oh so smooth and smooth. Not only that, the soundstage opened up while notes floated effortlessly beyond the speaker boundaries in width, depth and height. Bass is prodigious without being boomy, while highs are airier and more extended. As for the midrange, it's either "you are there" or "she is in your living room" sort of thing. Transient attacks are as impactful as they should be. Finally, it all has to be musical and indeed it is as musical as it gets - the total antithesis of "analytical". The 8005 is also not partial to any genre, serving out classical, jazz, blues or rock in equal measure. As the old cliché goes, it doesn't get any better than this. There is not an iota of dryness that might have been suggested of the K-01 in the past.

To all K-01/03 owners, do go out and bring an NA8005 home for an audition or, like me, just buy it. You can finally bid goodbye to jitter-inducing computer interfaces, hard disk drives, background noise, etc, etc.

Happy listening!
Great writeup. I wonder how this compares to the Auralic
Aries. What kind of software interface does the Marantz
have? Can the Marantz do wireless like the Aries?

EDIT: looks like no wireless with the Marantz but use of
network bridge like the Dlink DAP-1650 (which I use now with
my CAPS) should suffice.
Hi Tboooe,

Thanks for your kind comments.
For my minimalst set-up, no computer or software interface is needed. The player just reads off the data from the flash drive and the artist, album, track, file type and sampling rate info are all shown on the display.
I do not intend to use the network function either as this would entail the use of a computer with usb and ethernet cabling to the home broadband router. Any of this along the signal path introduces jitter to some degree.
Hi John, what size / model of flash drive do you use?


I am using the Sandisk Cruzer with 128 GB on board. It is a high speed 2.0 usb thumb drive. I think these are easily available nowadays.
Does the Marantz player support large SSDs formatted as NTFS inside USB enclosures? E.g. The Samsung 850 Pro 1TB?
Only usb drives formatted as FAT16 or FAT32 is supported. Unfortunately, NTFS formatted SSD drives cannot be played by the 8005.
Just to add, if you want to play from your large SSD drive via your computer, you need to use the internal dac. All computer usb connections need to go through the internal dac and then via analog outputs to the preamp.
To connect directly to your own dac, only usb flash drives plugged into the front or rear panel ports allow digital output.
Another very big plus in ditching the computer is the handheld remote that allows you to scroll through all your music folders and files instead of having to get off the chair and use the mouse to open them. Of course you can use the app on your smartphone or tablet to control the player but then you need a wireless connection to your computer for this. The purist way for pc audio would be to turn off all wireless connections during playback.
Hi John, I hope that at some point Esoteric will see it fit to add a mass storage bay to its players... Imagine a hypothetical K-01Y, similar to K-01 and K-01X, but with a user accessible slot where an arbitrarely large SSD can be inserted.... Redbook would be loaded onto the SSD from this player's own transport, while Hi Resolution material would be loaded from an external source via USB, SPDIF, Ethernet, or something else.

That day will surely come and I will patiently wait with you for it.
Meanwhile, the NA8005 is doing very nicely right now for me.
What flabbergasts me is that a product like this that costs about 1% of the total system cost can elevate sound quality by one third! Kudos to the march of technology. In this case, it is indeed the law of diminishing returns in reverse! - the new law of accelerating returns.
there is a review of k-01x k-03x in the latest issue of the japanese Stereo Sound magazine

any japanenese speaking subscriber care to translate?
If you use Google Chrome, it will translate any language into English on the fly. I have read the short intro to the x models, their improvements over non-x, and the modifications avaialable for non-x, but no full review yet.
Has anyone done a full in-home or other compare of the K-01 or K-01x against the P-03/D-03 and P-02/D-02? I'm looking to potentially simplify things at a reasonable (medium-high versus extremely high) price point and the K-01x may be a good answer for me all things considered versus the P-02/D-02 given price point. I listen to alot of RBCD as well as XRCD (various formats), K2HD and SACD. Thanks in advance!
Interesting stuff. I am a K-03 owner using strictly physical discs, but have been investigating PC sourced audio for a long time. Unfortunately for me, I have been paralyzed by analysis and confusion, as the world of dsd, double dsd, PCM, etc has rendered me brain dead lol. Even the new world of FPGA dacs, which of course I have no idea what the acronym means but it supposedly renders the transport immaterial, adds more confusion. In any event, I digress. Jon2020, what kind of PC do you use, and how do you download music? Do you burn discs into your PC? Does your new method of copying music to USB flash drive render the quality of the original PC used to copy/store music immaterial to SQ?
I finally bit the bullet and dove into the computer digital world with a new Mac Mini music server. For those who are considering this I can highly recommend it as a new front end system. My experience is this; I bought the new mac mini (Yosemite ) with 1 TB fusion drive and 16GB RAM. I then choose Pure Music 2 for its compatibility with mac and apple remote. I am using my esoteric k-01 as the DAC with their highRes driver installed. The mini is directly connected to the K-01 with a USB 2 Wireworld cable. I have began to rip my extensive CD collection using Apple's super drive encoding as Apple Lossless (ALAC) with error correction box checked. This process is extremely time consuming....good thing I am retired. I am able to rip about 40 CD’s per day (I own over 800). Playback worked with ease and I up sample to 24bit 192 hz. The result is wonderful and operation is extremely simple. The apple remote on my iPad is simple to use and I am amazed at how quick songs load (about 1 sec). I cannot tell the difference from playing a CD directly! Highly recommended for those who are considering going in this direction.
Hi Jeffkad,

Apologies for my delayed reply - just read your post.

1. What kind of PC do you use? -

I have stopped using my PC as a source. The hi-res files are transfered to a usb flash drive which is then plugged into the Marantz front panel port

2. How do you download music? -

I download from various websites to my PC and then transfer them to a usb flash drive

3. Do you burn discs into your PC? - No; I only play hi-res files through the Marantz; redbook still sounds better via my K-01 transport

4. Does your new method of copying music to USB flash drive render the quality of the original PC used to copy/store music immaterial to SQ? - Yes, definitely, because the PC isn't in the chain anymore. :)

Hope this helps. Cheers!
Thanks so much for this information...BUT... I must tell you my experience. I just hung up from speaking with the folks in California (TEAC/Esoteric Operational Support). I shared the above information and they had NO IDEA whatsoever what I was talking about. Worse...they just kept referring me to ONKYO. Evidently according to the woman I spoke with ONKYO is handling service, upgrades, sales of Esoteric equipment now?!?!

I'm left scratching my head wondering what just happened. Really weird and inconsistent with the experience I'd had in speaking with these folks even a few months ago.

Can anyone verify?

Repeatedly, despite the specifics highlighted above I was told there are no upgrades for the K-01 or K-03. I believe this is incorrect and own both players. Frustrating to say the least...
Bamiles - for over a year now Integra (Onkyo's higher end division) has taken over Esoteric's distribution in the US, Canada, and Latin America. Here's an article detailing the announcement for your reference.
Thanks Bill. So then who do I contact regarding upgrading my K-01 and K-03 players? TEAC refers me to Onkyo. The person I was referred to does not respond to my inquiry. Does anyone have the proper contact information? In the original post is says the upgrades will be done in California. TEAC is in Monticello, California. However Onkyo is in New Jersey.
See the Integra product support page with all sorts of info:

email address for Esoteric support:

And here is the 24/7 phone support line:

Yes... Google is a marvellous institution. G.
I have also been TRYING to deal with ONKYO/INTEGRA Support
and Service to get a repair diagnosis and cost for my P03U and
also have a new conversation regarding the 02 series and K01; I am
seeing long delays in getting answers out of Japan and Onkyo. Very message to ESOTERIC JAPAN..."please
bring back the SOTA customer service Esoteric owners and
prospects used to enjoy!!!"
Does anyone have the name and contact info for the local Esoteric rep who would have taken over sales for the United Sales after Mark Gurvey left and is part of the Gibson/Onkyo/Esoteric sales structure? Please email on Audiogon....thanks!
I don't know if this is old news to you guys but it sounds like the USB DSD upgrade has started in Japan already:
This may be old news but what is of greater interest will be to hear the experience of anyone who has tried out this DSD upgrade.
Hey Zephyr, see my post on the D-02/P-02 post, I listed the contact info for Esoteric/Integra. Start with Scott Sefton, and if that doesn't get it done, Paul Wasek. You can find there contact info on the Integra website.

Still waiting to hear from Esoteric and the option of upgrading to "x" in the states. Have not seen any information here so far.
Staring to gain clarity as to US upgrade for "K" owners. Here is a reply from Marketing US.

"Yes, we do plan to offer an upgrade of the USB board for K-01/K-03.
It really should in no way be referred as an upgrade to “X”. It will not include any other changes than the USB functionality, and even that will not be the same as the “X” versions.
It will however allow playback of 2.8MHz DSD files via the USB. I would not expect any sonic differences at all, just this added function.
We have not announced it in the US yet as we are finalizing the pricing and procedure. I *believe* the price will be $1,500 in the US, I do not know about Canada. The unit would have to be shipped to our service center in California (T.A.P.)".
We will announce on our website when this is finalized.
This might not be the proper thread, but I was really hoping to gather a bit of info on the problems I am having after installing the new driver software from the Esoteric sight for my K-03 . HS-2 filter is no longer working I can only use HS-1,and as mentioned above there in no customer support from Esoteric. Any experience would be a amazing
This might not be the proper thread, but I was really hoping to gather a bit of info on the problems I am having after installing the new driver software from the Esoteric sight for my K-03 . HS-2 filter is no longer working I can only use HS-1,and as mentioned above there in no customer support from Esoteric. Any experience would be a amazing
Try uninstalling the driver, reboot your pc/Mac and do a fresh reinstall from the website.
Hope this works.
One thing that is very important. You need to do the fresh reinstall on your computer without a usb connection to the K-03. Connect the usb cable from your computer to the K-03 only AFTER the driver installation is completed.